The Varaždin City Museum has been working on the project called BASTION – Cities on the Drava River Open their Fortresses. This is a joint programme with the Regional Museum Maribor within the Neighbourhood Pogramme. It was carried out by Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia; and co-financed by the European Union. The project started on 16th March, 2006 and will end on 15th February, 2008. The objective of the Varaždin part of the project is to gather data through the multidisciplinary research both in the field and in archives, and then to elaborate, properly display and make the findings on the defence system of the Renaissance Castle in Varaždin accesible to the public.
The fortress, known as Stari grad, is a lowland fortress built in the Middle Ages at the junction of old roads not far from the Drava river. As the centre of the autonomous feudal estate nearby the royal free town of Varaždin, it had an important role in the town defence throughout history. The architectural basis of the fortress consists of quadrate towers built by the Celjski counts at the end of the 14th century. In mid-15th century Urlik, the Count of Celje had a corn house built to satisfy the needs of the fortress dwellers not far from the fortress itself. Due to the dangers of the Turkish incursions in the mid of the 16th century, which threatened not only Slavonia but also the complete interior of Austrian countries, the Varaždin fortress was restored into a modern water edifice with low defence towers – rotundas – connected through galleries of defence corridors with shooting galleries for firearms and surrounded with diches and earthen walls with bastions, most of which have been preserved up until now.
Archive Research encloses data gathering from the written and pictorial material preserved in various archives, museums and libraries connected to the Varaždin Fortress Stari grad (Old City). The experts of The Varaždin City Museum, a museum adviser Miroslav Klemm, an art historian, and a senior curator Spomenka Težak, a historian, have been doing their research at the National Archives in Varaždin, Croatian National Archives in Zagreb, Steiermärkisches Landesarchiv in Graz, Kriegsarchiv in Vienna and Slovakian Central Archives in Bratislava. In the preserved archival material there are many drawings of the town of Varaždin and many saved documents with reports of the army commanders and the commissioners for the Slavonian border. They witnessed the erection and the state of the fortress, the money and building material spent, progress and halts of the work, clashes between the owners of the fortress and inhabitants of the free royal town of Varaždin, etc.
Archeological digging started at the beginning of August and lasted till mid of November 2006. The research was conducted by the team of 17 members, led by the museum advisor Marina Šimek. Supporting work was done by the laborers of Vodogradnja d.d. from Varaždin. The subcontractors did the geological research and measurments.
180 separate findings were gathered (ceramic dishes, fireplace tiles, glass objects, stone cannon balls, quarrel tops for crossbows, equestrain harness…) and about 6.000 other movable findings of various usage and age.
In the northern water ditch the remnants of a wooden structure were found, which are now being connected with the bridge in front of the Ghotic tower. According to earlier architectural research, the tower dates from the 13th century.
The remnats of the wooden architecture have been found in the western ditch as well. This is the case of the defence fence confirmed in the length of 130 m, older than the Renaissance complex.
In the southern defensive wall, a segment of the stone town wall has been found, which was exactely the place of its junction point with the defensive system of the castle. This, together with its remnant in Freedom Square of Varaždin, is the last preserved part of the town wall, demolished at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century. The archeological data has given new information about the method of erecting of the northern and western defense walls as well as the original depth and width of the inner water ditch. The movable material gives data about life in the fortress, as well as life in the town. The movable findings belong to the period of the late 15th century to the first half of the 20th century.
In the course of the research, the young people of primary and secondary schools have had the opportinity to get acquainted with the BASTION Project through numerous workshops in the field.
The BASTION Project was presented on the seminar of The Croatian Archeological Association in Sinj.
To make this project more popular, a brochure with the basic data was published.
After the expert and laboratory analyses of the movable findings they were presented to the public in the form of a museum exhibition. A twenty - metre long stone wall was discovered and preserved «in situ».This stone wall, together with the smaller fragment on the Freedom Square, is the only preserved part of the former town wall demolished at the end of 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century.
The project BASTION has ended on 15th February, 2008.
The group of the Varaždin City Museum working on the project BASTION
Branko Spevec, Director/Project leader
Petra Rutić, Documentalist, Project leader associate
Marina Šimek, Museum advisor- Archeologist
Miroslav Klem, Museum advisor – Art historian
Spomenka Težak, Senior curator - Historian
Martina Jurišić, Archeologist – Reserach assistant
Branimir Šimek, Senior museum technician – Art preparator (ceramics/metal)
Davor Puttar, Senior museum technician - photograph
Ana Brlek, Executive sectretary
Vesna Stipetich – Godenzi, Head of the accountant office